City invites public to comment on bus system changes

Posted May 19, 2010, at 10:24 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The city will host two public comment sessions on Friday to discuss potential fare increases and possible scheduling changes to the BAT Community Connection bus system.

As part of a pledge to keep a stable tax rate, Bangor city councilors have proposed a number of changes and cuts to various municipal departments.

Among them are a BAT fare increase from $1 per ride to $1.25 and a monthly pass increase from $40 to $45 that would increase revenue by an estimated $45,000 to help offset operating costs. Additionally, the city has proposed eliminating bus service on six days (Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, Patriot’s Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day and the Friday after Thanksgiving) and eliminating the Mallhopper bus on Saturday, which would save another $24,000.

The public sessions, which will be held at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. in City Council chambers, are required under local ordinance and are scheduled to give community members the chance to sound off on the proposed changes. BAT Superintendent Joe McNeil said he already has received feedback from riders.

“Most people are upset about the reduction in services on holidays rather than the fare increase,” he said. “Other partners of the BAT, such as Brewer and Hampden, have not favored cutting services because ridership is up.”

Michelle Daily of Hampden moved to Maine four years ago from New York and is a regular BAT rider. She doesn’t want to see services reduced.

“I use it probably four times a week,” she said. “I have a car, but I still would rather ride the bus. I think they should extend hours later into the evening, not cut service.”

The BAT is a fixed route public transit system operated by the City of Bangor for the communities of the Greater Bangor Area, including Bangor, Brewer, Veazie, Orono, Old Town, Hampden and the University of Maine. There are nine separate bus routes that run every hour or every half hour Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Some routes offer Saturday service.

The last BAT fare increases came in 2007, when single ticket fares increased from 85 cents to $1 and monthly passes jumped from $34 to $40.

City councilors will decide all budget matters in early June. If the BAT changes are included, they would go into effect July 1.

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